What Happens When a Person Dies Without a Will in Michigan?

When a deceased person does not have a valid will, Michigan laws govern distribution of his or her assets. If the person has minor children, the state will also determine custody in this situation.

Reviewing these considerations can highlight the importance of having an estate plan.

Intestate succession

The person’s property is subject to intestate succession, which means that Michigan laws state who will inherit his or her estate. If he or she has children but no surviving spouse, they receive everything. With a surviving spouse, he or she receives everything when the person had no children or parents. Parents inherit everything when a deceased person has no surviving spouse or children, followed by the person’s siblings.

When the person had a spouse, children and parents, they each receive different percentages depending on the exact family configuration.

Child custody

When a deceased person has minor children but has not named a guardian, the state will decide on custody unless they have another surviving parent. If possible, the court may appoint a close family member such as a grandparent to care for the child. Otherwise, the state may place the child with a foster family.

Estate administration

When someone has a will, they can appoint a personal executor to manage their affairs. In the absence of a will that names an executor, the court will appoint someone, often the person’s closest living relative, to act in this important role.

Understanding the intestate laws in Michigan can inform a thoughtful estate plan that ensures the deceased person’s heirs can meet his or her wishes.